YAMAGUCHI – Opponents of the planned transfer of carrier-based aircraft to the U.S. Iwakuni base remained a minority in Sunday’s assembly election in the city in Yamaguchi Prefecture.
Of the 32 candidates elected, only 10 have explicitly expressed opposition, meaning the assembly is expected to support Mayor Yoshihiko Fukuda’s policy of accepting the central government’s plan for the aircraft transfer and other steps in the base’s development.
There was little debate over the issue during the campaign. Voter turnout was 57.4 percent, 5.9 percentage points down from the previous election four years ago.
Under the plan, 59 carrier-based aircraft will be moved to Iwakuni from the U.S. Navy’s Atsugi base in Kanagawa Prefecture around 2017.
Separately, 15 U.S. KC-130 tankers were transferred to the Iwakuni base this summer from Okinawa Prefecture.
Located around 300 km from the major South Korean city Busan, the base is considered strategically important given the nuclear and missile threat from North Korea.